Newtongrange boss Alan Miller today praised his side for showing patience before securing the 2-0 home win over Ballingry Rovers win that keeps them six points clear at the top of the Super League table.
Star refused to press the panic button at home to struggling Ballingry and got their rewards with a late, late winner from striker Ally Forster.
Miller said: “We learned last season just to be patient and not to panic when the game isn’t working out the way we want. At half-time I told the players to keep up the pressure and eventually they would crack, which they did.”
Ballingry were coming to Newtongrange to beat the side that pipped them for the Premier League title last season and were in no mood to give Miller’s men an easy time. They had Willie Garner in as assistant coach to Stevie Kay and he has the experience to stiffen them up at the back.
Miller admitted he was expecting a tough match and had his squad well prepared. “It’s not the same Ballingry side who ran us close last season but they have steadily improved and would like nothing better than to roll us over and get some revenge.
“We knew we would have to be patient and not allow ourselves to get frustrated and the result would come. Some would say the squad has a ‘never-say-die attitude’ and they could be right.”
The game kicked off after a heavy downpour but the sun shone and, in front of a sizeable crowd, Newtongrange settled into their usual passing game. They huffed and puffed a bit without creating any chances of substance though and it was Ballingry who came closest to scoring when Ryan Blackadder cracked the crossbar with a shot from ten yards.
The second half started well for Star with Craig O’Reilly forcing a fine save from Rovers keeper Andy Murphy and things started to look promising for Miller’s men.
Ballingry looked content to sit back and soak up the pressure with Lee Bryce and Darren Smith occasionally breaking through without any real penetration.
Home boss Miller then produced an inspired substitution when he took off Chris King and brought on Paul Tansey, then Forster for O’Reilly and it soon started to pay dividends. Both the newly introduced players were full of energy and, against a Ballingry side who were on their heels for much of the contest, the game opened up.
Star stepped up the pressure with ten minutes to go and finally made the breakthrough with both subs playing a starring role.
Jordan Cropley played a terrific pass to Tansey out wide left. He delayed his cutback perfectly to allow Forster to curve his run into the six-yard box and sidefoot the ball home. Then only a couple of minutes later, the same passage of play occurred from the opposite wing, this time with Forster playing the ball in for Tansey but he blasted the ball over the bar.
Miller was delighted with the win, saying: “The substitutions have worked out for the second week in a row. Both the lads who came on have made a real contribution to the side. Ballingry came here with a good game plan but we didn’t play at a good enough pace to get in behind them. We’ve now developed a resilience about the squad now; we keep going.”
Goal hero Forster said: “After I came on there was lots of space opening up and Jordan found a pass to Paul and the rest just happened. I don’t know if it was an inspired sub move but we got the result.
“The club has a good feel about it right now and I think we’ve learned from last season. The gaffer said it’s important to get the points in the bag early and let the other sides play catch-up so we have to keep getting results.”
Fellow substitute Tansey was equally pleased. “It’s a sign that we are a good side when even if we’re not playing as we can, we’re getting results,” he said. “The boss is always saying to be patient and keep going and the result on Saturday shows what can happen. We never give up on a game.”
Newtongrange Star: Renton, Swaney, Noble, Tolmie, Dunn, Cherrie (Shields), Cropley, Gillon, O’Reilly (Forster), King (Tansey), Jamieson. Subs: Deland, Amos.
Ballingry: Murphy, Wilson, Connor, Carstairs, Sinclair, Moffat, McDonald, Smith, McDiarmid (C Courts), Blackadder, Bryce. Subs: Fleming, Finlay, S Courts, Allison.